Fantasy 5: Can Eddie Lacy have a bounce-back season?
We’ve reached our destination. Training camp is here, with all teams up and running by the end of the week. Hold on tight, because things are going to change quickly over the next six weeks. In the meantime, here are five things to know from the weekend.
1. Can Packers RB Eddie Lacy rebound?
One of the most disappointing players in fantasy circles last year, Lacy was the third running back selected in terms of ADP and ended up finishing 25th at the position in fantasy scoring. A big part of the problem was his noticeable weight gain, as he reported to last year’s camp weighing 260 pounds. His much-discussed offseason workout regimen had him reportedly down 20 pounds in offseason practices, but Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said Lacy still had some work to do.
The question for fantasy purposes is whether Lacy can rebound from last year’s performance. To be fair, he wasn’t as “terrible” as many fantasy owners might lead you to believe. Lacy averaged 4.1 yards per carry, and had three 100-yard games. His problem was, in part, a lack of touchdown production. Lacy found the end zone just five times on the season, after having scored a combined 24 times in his first two years.
[Is Randall Cobb another bounce-back candidate in the Green Bay offense? Pat Thorman explains why he could be a good value in his fantasy question for every NFC North team.]
While the weight issue certainly didn’t help his cause, Lacy’s woes were somewhat indicative of the general struggles the Packers experienced for much of the season. The team lacked its typically potency in the passing game with No. 1 wide receiver Jordy Nelson sidelined. Last year was the first time in Aaron Rodgers’ career that he played all 16 games and failed to reach 4,000 yards passing. With Nelson back this year, Green Bay is a strong bet to rebound offensive. That rising tide will help Lacy, as will his hopefully better physical conditioning. While the drafting public isn’t overlooking Lacy, he does come at a slight discount as the 10th running back in ADP.
2. Know the name: Devontae Booker
It’s a very top-heavy rookie running back class this season, with Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott essentially in a tier by himself. But there are a few rookies in the next tier who have the potential to make a fantasy impact in Year 1. Booker is among those players, and he appears to be on the fast track to playing time after flashing in Broncos offseason practices.
Booker graded out as the No. 3 college running back in this year’s class, ranking fourth in PFF elusive rating with 71 forced missed tackles. That was ahead of the aforementioned Elliott. There was some concern about Booker’s status following knee surgery in November for a torn meniscus, but he was reported to be close to 100 percent recovered back in May.
Our team of college analysts compared Booker to a smaller Arian Foster in the pre-draft process, which certainly stands out given the fact that Foster’s head coach during his fantasy heyday is current Broncos coach Gary Kubiak. C.J. Anderson remains the favorite for early-down work, but Booker will likely factor into passing situations, and has the potential to push Anderson. Booker is shaping up to be an interesting value at his current ADP in the middle of the 13th round.
3. Are the Jets’ fantasy options worse off with Geno Smith at quarterback?
With Ryan Fitzpatrick still on the street, the chance that Smith is under center for the Jets in Week 1 becomes larger by the day. Jets head coach Todd Bowles gave Smith a vote of confidence, saying “I think Geno can be a good starter.” Of course, it’s never a good thing to take NFL coaches at their word, but can fantasy players be confident in a Geno-led Jets offense?
Despite finishing as a back-end QB1, Fitzpatrick struggled on the field. He completed just 59.6 percent of his passes, and was one of just two full-time starters to average less than 7.0 yards per attempt. His productivity was largely the byproduct of Chan Gailey’s turbo-charged offense that ran the most 4-wide sets in the league. While no one expects Smith to be a strong starter, he’s really not that much of a step down from Fitzpatrick.
If Smith does end up as the starter, the fantasy needle doesn’t really move for the Jets. But the drafting public seems to be discounting Jets players. Brandon Marshall is coming off a massive 2015 campaign where he was one of the most heavily targeted receivers in the league. Yet he’s going 14th among wide receivers. Eric Decker caught a touchdown in 12 of 16 games and is being drafted as the 31st wide receiver. Both players are likely to end up as strong values at their current ADPs.
4. Is Blaine Gabbert on the 2016 fantasy radar?
At this time last year, it would have been almost unthinkable that Blaine Gabbert would be ahead of Colin Kaepernick on the 49ers’ depth chart, but that’s exactly how things appear to be shaping up with camp set to open this week. Gabbert reportedly has “a good grasp” of Chip Kelly’s offense, and is viewed by many in the organization as the better option at quarterback.
The former 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Gabbert has started 35 games, completing a lowly 55.8 percent of his passes at a clip of 6.0 yards per attempt. He’s almost dead-even on touchdowns to interceptions (33-to-31), and has taken a sack on 8.5 percent of his dropbacks. However, Gabbert started the last eight games of the season, and really wasn’t that bad for fantasy purposes. Over that span, he ranked 18th in fantasy points, outscoring Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, and Alex Smith. In Kelly’s up-tempo offense, Gabbert could have sneaky appeal in 2-QB leagues should he win the job.
5. Take a late-round flier on Ravens WR Breshad Perriman
A popular fantasy breakout pick earlier in the offseason, Perriman suffered a partially torn ACL in Ravens’ OTAs. He avoided surgery and there was some optimism that he’d be on the field “at some point” during camp. However, Baltimore placed Perriman on the active/PUP (physically unable to perform) list with Ravens camp officially open.
We’re in wait-and-see mode with Perriman right now, but he’s someone to keep in mind as a late-round flier. Should his recovery go well, Perriman will have an opportunity to contribute in a Ravens’ wide receiver corps that does have some question marks. Veteran WR Steve Smith is entering his age-37 season and is coming off a ruptured Achilles. He was also placed on active/PUP and isn’t a guarantee to be on the field in Week 1.